Today, I made my way across the river for the first time to the part of town known as Buda. There doesn’t seem to be the hustle of the Pest side of the river, but then again all the metro lines etc are on the Pest side and so is the main railway station, although international services seem to arrive at any one of 3 or 4 stations.
I also worked out today why the Red M2 metro line is so far underground and the escalators down and up can give you a sense of vertigo. I really only wondered when i noted the yellow M3 line had completely different trains and was literally a metre underground. Then I realised that the M2 line is the only one that goes under the Danube to the Buda side. So i caught the metro to the other side of the river and started walking along the banks towards the palace.
Then something strange happened. Well initially it seemed ok, an italian sounding guy asked me for directions, in english. I had my camera out so I looked like a tourist who might speak english. Within say 30 seconds an undercover police man was flashing his badge. Asking for passports etc. I showed him my license (not a requirement to show him your passport). Then he said he was checking for illegal drug deals etc and wanted to see the other guys money. He had a wallet of euros. The police man checked them and scratched them to check if they were real. He then asked me. I really didn’t want to, but showed him that I had local Hungarian Forints only. He then asked where are my euros or dollars. I said I had none as I withdrew cash from ATM only. He then said ok, but he also said something to the other guy in Hungarian as I left. So I’m now thinking some kind of scam and usually a quick flash of a police badge means its far more likely to not be real. But then again how would I know?
Anyway the real ripoff were the prices they charge on Castle hill in Buda. I didn’t go into anything, because it seemed everything was vastly overpriced and then they had the photography fees on top. I told every museum, it was way too expensive and moved on. especially when there are 10 or so museums on the hill. Oh thats were the legalised scam of buying a budapest card (or any other cities tourist card) comes in. Pay a fortune for it, then realise to get your moneys worth you have to go visit all these museums at 20% off, otherwise you’ve got ripped off. Of course in the mean time, you’ve spent a fortune visiting museums, most of which are probably not that good.
Then I had lunch. I had Hungarian Goulash for a starter. I doubt it was real goulash, it was pretty bland and watery. Well bland until I ate a chilli. Then some turkey for mains. After that the bill arrived at 5100 Forints. OK thats less than 20 euros. so sounds ok, but I am paying 6000 Forints for a night in my own room in a hostel. So proportionately speaking its way overpriced. After taking in a few more sights on top of the hill like the church and the Fishermans Bastion I quickly left before my money magically disappeared.
So the weathers gone bad again, but I’m off to Prague tomorrow. I did enjoy Budapest, but I liked Ljubljana and Zagreb more. The food here is just not fantastic. Services are ok, but its overrun with traffic as well. Its well worth a visit though. Certainly Pest has an array of architecturally and visually appealing buildings, plus good cheap accomodation. Buda has the tourist attractions and clearly the place to go if you want to get rid of Forint rather quickly!!